The Lack of Electricity in the Age of Ebenezer Scrooge

At the time Charles Dickens penned his famous novella “A Christmas Carol” electricity was not a going concern. Interior and exterior lighting were all accomplished through the use of candles and the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil or natural gas. Certainly there was no electrician Ogden to call to fix an electrical problem for the obvious reason that there existed at the time no electrical infrastructure that required servicing.

“A Christmas Carol” is divided into five “Staves” or┬áchapters. The word “Stave” is an Old English word for Chapter. The casual reader of Dickens’ book might be curious as to why Mr. Dickens chose to use the word stave instead of chapter. One possible reason is to give the story a veneer of antiquity. Obviously, the story appears as an antique to the modern reader (as is evidenced by the lack of electrical infrastructure for example) but to the reader at the time the story was originally published (1843) I suspect the details seemed contemporaneous with the average reader. Accordingly, the use of the word stave instead of chapter was perhaps intended to give the story a poetic feel even to the reader who existed at the time Mr. Dickens set pen to paper.

As previously mentioned there was no electrical infrastructure at the time Mr. Scrooge walked the earth (and as such there was no need for an electrician Ogden to fix the non existent electrical problems). We can see evidence of this in that Scrooge lit his office by candle light, heated his office through the use of a coal fireplace and the lamp posts on the street outside his office were lit by natural gas. Moreover, when Mr. Scrooge returns to his house on that eventful evening he navigated the darkness through the use of a candle.